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Walking Tall (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Alternative ending; Deleted scenes; Outtakes; Audio commentary with The Rock; Featurette on the stunts.

THE Rock continues his one-man mission to become the next Arnold Schwarzenegger by headlining this old-fashioned revenge thriller, which, though enjoyable in places, ultimately fails to do justice to the true story behind it.

The former WWF sensation stars as Chris Vaughn, a former Special Forces soldier, who returns to his home-town to find it now under the control of wealthy high-school rival, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), a ruthless businessman, whose casino has replaced a formerly profitable sawmill, and who pedals drugs to the town’s kids.

Vaughn, however, is unable to sit back and accept the changes, and, after a particularly painful run-in with some of Hamilton’s heavies, vows to get even, running for town sheriff and cleaning up the unwanted element with the assistance of long-time friend and former felon, Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville).

So far, so routine, you may think, which is exactly how things stay. Walking Tall does exactly what it says on the label, which only serves to make its disappointment all the more greater.

It’s not a bad film, by any stretch, and at 86 minutes, doesn’t outstay its welcome. But given the history behind it, and The Rock’s charismatic turn in the recent action romp, Welcome To The Jungle, this would appear to be something of a backward step in the former wrestler’s career progression.

Walking Tall has already been turned into a film, starring Joe Don Baker, in 1973, when it grittily depicted the efforts of real-life sheriff, Buford Pusser, to clean up the crime in his small, rural Southern town, in America’s McNairy County.

That film spawned two sequels and was widely considered to have done justice to the legend of Sheriff Pusser, who fought crime at a heavy personal cost (his wife was ambushed and murdered and he, himself, required 16 facial operations as a result of the same ambush), before dying in a car crash at the age of just 36.

The Rock’s remake, while similarly gritty and harking back to a Seventies style of raw authenticity (particularly during its fight scenes), ultimately suffers from being a little too by-the-numbers for its own good.

Too much of its content seems to have come from the type of revenge flicks that helped to make Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone and Arnie famous, thereby squandering the potential for The Rock to demonstrate any great acting ability, and falling some way short of its expectations.

The paper-thin characterisation doesn’t help. Knoxville is pure comedy value, and does far better than his screen-time warrants, but McDonagh is a particularly bland central villain, while Ashley Scott, as Vaughn’s love-interest, exists purely to get her top off and add some needless titillation.

The fight scenes are well orchestrated and necessarily tough, but even they conclude far too quickly - almost as though the director couldn’t wait to shout ‘cut’.

Fans of movies such as Patrick Swayze’s Roadhouse and Seagal’s Marked For Death may find some guilty pleasures in its content, while it does possess the feel of a diverting Saturday night no-brainer, but, for many, this will represent a huge waste of potential - both for The Rock and the movie itself.

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